Have you noticed how stress has become part of our lives? It’s something we all seem to suffer from, and for the most part, we see it as a mental condition. But stress is not just a worry that occurs in our heads, it can also manifest physically as hair loss and many other physical conditions.
While losing hair throughout the day is normal, chronic stress can cause continuous hair loss. If this is happening to you, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are ways to combat stress-induced hair loss and limit the toll stress takes on your body.
This article will help you understand how stress leads to hair loss and how to regain or at least retain your crowning glory.
The Science Behind Stress And Hair Loss
Our hair follicles are the structures responsible for hair growth and are sensitive to hormonal changes like stress.
There are three stages of hair growth. In the growth, or anagen phase, strands of hair push through the skin. In the degeneration or catagen phase, hair stops growing. Finally, in the rest, or telogen phase, the hair falls out, and the process starts from the beginning.
Stem cells found within the hair follicles drive the hair growth cycle. When stressed, our bodies release cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, which deregulates these stem cells. This deregulation causes hair growth imbalance, ultimately leading to hair loss.
Types Of Hair Loss Caused By Stress
There are many types of hair loss, such as tinea capitis (also known as scalp ringworm) and lichen planopilaris (a form of alopecia).
Three types of hair loss are associated with chronic stress.
Telogen effluvium occurs when stress prematurely pushes a large number of hair follicles into a resting phase. After a few months, the affected hair suddenly falls out after simply combing or brushing your hair. The hair usually thins around the top of your head with this condition. This type of hair loss is abrupt and tends to be temporary. The hair can grow back once the stress is under control. However, it can sometimes become chronic and lead to long-term hair loss.
Trichotillomania, a hair-pulling disorder, is a psychological condition caused by stress. People with this disorder feel an irresistible urge to pull out hair from their bodies or to twist and turn it through their fingers until it breaks off. This leads to significant hair loss over time.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder in which your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Stress is thought to be a contributing factor to this disorder. This hair loss can be widespread or patchy and affects any area of the body.
Dealing With Stress-Related Hair Loss
The good news is that stress-related hair loss doesn’t have to be permanent. You can do several things to counteract your stress levels and protect your hair.
Regularly practice stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, exercise, or deep breathing.
Spend time around friends and family who support you and bring positivity into your life. You don’t have to deal with hair loss on your own. Being around those you love can do wonders for your anxiety levels. You can also seek help from a professional such as a therapist or counselor to help you deal with the mental burden of chronic stress.
Consult with a healthcare professional who can provide appropriate hair treatments. They can diagnose the exact cause of your hair loss and recommend the best treatments. Topical and oral treatments such as minoxidil and prescription medications such as finasteride can help to slow down and even reverse hair loss.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good hair care routine. Incorporating gentle hair care practices into your self-care routine can help to minimize the risk of future hair loss. Don’t aggressively brush or comb your hair and minimize your use of heat styling and chemical treatments. Mild shampoos are also good for a hair care routine.
Most importantly, undress any underlying psychological issues. This is especially true if you are experiencing trichotillomania. Mental healthcare professionals can provide cognitive behavioral therapy and other interventions to manage this condition.
If you’re noticing more strands than usual on your pillowcase or excessive hair loss in the shower, then it could be that your stress levels are to blame. Several stressful situations can cause hair loss, such as pregnancy, injury, relationship issues, financial concerns, or chronic illness.
And, while there are many treatments for hair loss, from medications to implants, sometimes, the best remedy is to take care of your mental health.